Justin Morneau is out of the starting lineup for the sixth straight game this evening. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire told Phil Mackey of 1500ESPN.com that while Morneau is still getting over the flu, he also needed a cortisone shot today to relieve vertebrae inflammation in his neck.
“He had a neck issue before he even got sick, where he was having a stiff neck — something that he’s dealt with in the past, and he’s had this before,” Gardenhire said. “It was just a little shot to kind of get rid of some inflammation.”
The good news is that the neck issue has absolutely nothing to do with his previous post-concussion symptoms. Gardenhire said Morneau was “not going to play anyway” Friday because of the flu, but thinks he could be available to pinch-hit as soon as tomorrow.
“I think Morneau’s going to be back here real soon,” Gardenhire said. “(Saturday) or the next day, I think he’ll be able to play. He’s got a little better look on his face today than he had. He doesn’t feel great today, but I think he’s starting to hold down fluid, and so is Joe (Mauer), and that’s a big key when they start (being) able to eat and keep stuff in their stomach.”
The Twins have been playing with a two-man bench over the past three days — as Delmon Young is also sidelined due to the flu and a rib injury — so they can’t afford to go short-handed much longer.
Morneau was batting .208 (11-for-53) with zero homers, five doubles and three RBI before coming down with the flu.
The Cardinals have officially signed outfielder Dexter Fowler to a five-year, $82.5 million contract. Fowler will also get a full no-trade clause.
The Cardinals gave Fowler a bigger deal than many speculated he’d get, as some reports predicted he’d get something in the $52-72 million range. His skills, however — he’s a fantastic leadoff hitter who plays a premium defensive position — definitely earned him some major dough. Fowler hit .276/.393/.447 with 13 homers, 48 RBI and 13 steals over 125 games in 2016 for the World Series champion Cubs.
For the Cardinals, this will allow Matt Carpenter to move down to the middle of the batting order and will shift Randal Grichuk to left field. It also takes a prime piece from the Cardinals’ biggest rival. For their part, earlier this offseason the Cubs signed former Cardinal center fielder Jon Jay. So that’s fun.
The Cardinals have always emphasized building from within. In the 2016-17 offseason, however, they may end up being one of the bigger free agent buyers. At least according to some informed speculation.
St. Louis is already in agreement with Dexter Fowler. But Derrick Goold and Ben Frederickson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch write today that the Cardinals “could become more aggressive than previously believed,” with Mark Trumbo and Edwin Encarnacion as “possible pursuits.” Worth noting that separate reports alleged some interest on the part of the Cards front office in free agent third baseman Justin Turner.
The Cardinals are already losing their first round pick due to the Fowler signing, so any other top free agent won’t cost them more than the money he’s owed. And as far as money goes, the Cardinals have a great deal of it, despite being a small market team. They have a billion dollar TV deal coming online and Matt Holliday and Jaime Garcia are off the payroll now. Spending big on a free agent or three would not cripple them or anything.
Encarnacion or Trumbo would be first baseman, which wold fly in the face of the Cards’ move of Matt Carpenter to first base (and, at least as far as Encarnacion goes, would fly in the face of good defense). Getting either of them would push Carpenter back to second, displacing Kolten Wong, or over to third, displacing Jhonny Peralta. If you’re going to do that, I’d say that Turner would make more sense, but what do I know?
Either way, the Cardinals may be entering a pretty interesting phase of their offseason now. And an unfamiliar one as, quite possibly, the top free agent buyer on the market.